Want to see how fast autonomous vehicle ASICs have improved, look no further than the California disengagement data

Back in 2019 we looked at the California disengagement data as part of look at the challenge self-driving cars faced over the coming years. There was a lot of variation in success with Google’s Waymo (please excuse the pun) way out in front with 11,018 miles on average per disengagement (ie the test driver grabbing the steering wheel).


As automotive ASICs play a crucial role in the decisions the car makes, we thought we’d take a look at the improvement since then.

It is impressive.



The leading AV system maker (now GM/Cruise) made travelled 863,111 miles with only 9 (nine) disenagements. Adding to the impressiveness, 8 of these were to prevent an accident caused by other drivers, and just one incidence where a “Precautionary takeover to address planning; lane keeping” was made.


And yes, like 2019, there are huge levels of variation between the disengagement rates of the system developers, there have been huge improvements all round.

Waymo is now at 17,060 miles per disengagement.

Zoox has gone from 1923 miles to 26,292 miles per

disengagement. The full data is below, with graphs showing

1) Miles per disengagement for all autonomous vehicle system developers and types of fault*


2) A breakdown showing the proportion of each class disengagement**

Advanced Strategies for RF ASICs in Space: Ensuring Functionality and Safety

In the second part of our series on designing ASICs for space applications, we build upon the foundational understanding of the environmental challenges and initial mitigation strategies outlined in part one. In this article, we shift our focus toward advanced mitigation techniques, particularly emphasizing the intricacies of RF ASICs, which play a pivotal role in communication and data transmission on board satellites. We will explore the sophisticated design strategies and software solutions that are essential in ensuring these ASICs not only withstand the harsh conditions of space but also maintain their critical functionality throughout their mission lifecycle.

Advanced Mitigation Techniques for Radiation

Advanced techniques are crucial for safeguarding the intricate circuitry of RF ASICs against the intense radiation in space. One such technique is the implementation of triple-redundancy flip-flops in the design. This approach, widely adopted in the aerospace industry, involves tripling critical circuit elements to ensure that a single radiation-induced error does not compromise the entire system. While this method significantly enhances reliability, it also increases the ASIC’s size and power requirements, a trade-off that must be carefully considered, especially in power-sensitive applications like satellite communications. These design choices are instrumental in protecting RF ASICs from single-event upsets, a common radiation-induced failure in space.


Another advanced strategy involves the use of specialized materials and shielding to further protect against radiation. Materials that can absorb or deflect high-energy particles help reduce the risk of radiation damage to the ASICs. Designers also often employ layout techniques that increase the separation between critical nodes in the circuit, reducing the likelihood of radiation-induced cross-talk or interference, which is particularly vital in the precise operations of RF ASICs. These material and layout considerations, combined with robust design strategies, form a comprehensive approach to mitigating the harsh effects of space radiation, ensuring that RF ASICs can reliably perform their functions in the challenging environment of outer space.


Software Strategies for Predicting and Fixing Errors

In the high-radiation environment of space, software strategies play a critical role in predicting and correcting errors in RF ASICs. Advanced error detection and correction algorithms are integrated into the ASICs’ firmware, allowing for real-time identification and rectification of faults caused by radiation. This is particularly important for memory components, where a single bit flip due to radiation can lead to significant data corruption. Error Correction Code (ECC) is commonly employed in these scenarios, providing an additional layer of data integrity and reliability, essential for maintaining the continuous and accurate operation of satellite communication systems.


Furthermore, software routines are designed to regularly monitor the health and status of the ASICs, implementing self-test procedures that can identify potential issues before they escalate into critical failures. This proactive approach to error management is complemented by redundancy in software operations, where critical processes are duplicated and continuously compared for discrepancies. Such strategies ensure that even in the event of a radiation-induced error, the system can maintain its operational integrity, a vital aspect for the long-term success of missions relying on satellite and RF ASICs.


Coping with Non-Ionizing Radiation

Non-ionizing radiation in space, though less discussed, poses its own set of challenges for RF ASICs, primarily through displacement damage. This type of radiation gradually alters the physical structure of semiconductor materials, leading to a progressive decline in performance. For RF ASICs, this can manifest as a gradual loss of efficiency in signal processing or increased noise levels, which can significantly impact the quality of satellite communications. To counteract these effects, designers often incorporate larger, more robust components that can tolerate gradual degradation over time, or they implement redundant systems to take over as primary components begin to show signs of wear.

Additionally, careful monitoring of voltage and current levels in RF ASICs can provide early warning signs of displacement damage. By setting thresholds for these parameters, the system can trigger alerts or switch to backup circuits when abnormal readings are detected. This approach is particularly effective in preventing sudden failures and ensuring the continuous operation of critical satellite functions. The layout of silicon tracks in these ASICs is also adjusted, with increased spacing between critical nodes to reduce the risk of damage from non-ionizing radiation, ensuring the long-term reliability and functionality of these essential components in the harsh environment of space.


The advanced mitigation techniques and software strategies we’ve covered are integral to ensuring the functionality and safety of RF ASICs in the challenging environment of space. These comprehensive approaches underscore the importance of meticulous design and proactive error management in maintaining the reliability and effectiveness of space-bound technology, essential for the success of any space mission.




Designing RF ASICs for Space: Understanding the Environmental Challenges of Satellite-Based Electronics

In the first installment of this two-part blog series on space-based ASICs, we delve into the intricate challenges of designing ASICs for the demanding environment of space. The stakes are high; launching and maintaining satellite equipment in orbit is a costly endeavor, so ensuring the effectiveness and reliability of integral components is paramount.


In this article, we’re focusing on the unique environmental challenges that ASICs used on satellites encounter beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, these specialized circuits must withstand extreme conditions that go far beyond the usual demands of electronic components. From the intense radiation to the unforgiving vacuum of space, every aspect of their design demands meticulous attention to detail and precision. This is where the resilience and ingenuity of satellite ASICs truly shine, paving the way for space-based innovation and observation.


Satellite Orbiting Earth.

Satellite Orbiting Earth. 3D Scene. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.


The Unique Environment of Space for Satellite ASICs

The environment of space presents a range of challenges that are vastly different from those on Earth, posing unique hurdles for the design and functionality of RF ASICs on satellites. One of the most significant factors is the extreme temperature variations that space-bound equipment must endure. Unlike the more controlled terrestrial environments, satellite-mounted ASICs can be exposed to temperatures ranging from the intense cold of deep space to the searing heat when exposed to direct sunlight. This extreme range, which can fluctuate by as much as 150°C, demands robust design considerations to ensure the operational integrity and longevity of the ASICs in such fluctuating conditions.


Another critical aspect unique to space is the vacuum environment. This absence of atmosphere affects not only the thermal management of satellite ASICs but also impacts material selection and structural design. In space, the lack of air means that traditional cooling methods through air convection are ineffective, necessitating reliance on thermal radiation for heat dissipation. This shift requires a different approach to thermal management, with a focus on radiation and insulation techniques. Additionally, the vacuum of space can lead to outgassing from materials, potentially causing delamination or other forms of degradation. Ensuring that ASICs are designed with these factors in mind is crucial for their successful operation in the harsh and unforgiving environment of space.


Understanding Radiation and Its Impact on Satellite ASICs

A critical challenge in the design of an RF ASIC destined for space is the management and mitigation of radiation, a pervasive and potentially destructive force in the extraterrestrial environment. Space radiation primarily comprises high-energy particles, including protons and electrons from solar winds and cosmic rays from distant galaxies, which can have severe effects on electronic components. These particles, when interacting with the delicate structures of ASICs, can lead to various forms of damage, such as the buildup of charged particles in the gate oxides of transistors, altering their operational characteristics. In the realm of satellite ASICs, this can manifest as changes in threshold voltages in transistors, potentially leading to malfunction or failure of the circuit. The impact is more pronounced in smaller gate sizes, common in modern ASIC designs, where the probability of radiation-induced damage is significantly higher. Understanding these radiation effects is not only crucial for the initial design but also for the ongoing reliability and functionality of satellite ASICs operating in such a high-radiation environment. This understanding forms the basis for developing effective mitigation strategies to protect these sophisticated components from the harsh realities of space radiation.



Mitigation Techniques Part 1: Design and Material Considerations

When it comes to satellite ASICs, effective mitigation against the harsh radiation of space is achieved through a blend of innovative design and strategic material selection. For RF ASICs, which are integral in communication and signal processing in satellites, the choice of gate material and structure is pivotal. Materials that offer higher resistance to radiation help in reducing the vulnerability of these ASICs to radiation-induced damages, such as threshold voltage shifts, which are critical in maintaining signal integrity and performance. The physical design of the ASICs, including the layout and sizing of the gates, is also tailored with radiation resilience in mind. This is particularly important for RF ASICs, where precision and reliability in signal processing are paramount.


What’s more, the overall packaging of these ASICs plays a vital role in radiation protection. Utilizing radiation-hardened packaging materials and specialized insulation techniques provides an additional defense layer, crucial for shielding the sensitive electronic components from direct radiation exposure. This approach is especially relevant for RF ASICs, as it ensures the integrity and efficiency of communication systems, which are often the lifeline of satellite operations. These design and material considerations form the cornerstone of the development of robust satellite ASICs, ensuring their operational effectiveness and longevity in the challenging environment of space.


Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will delve deeper into advanced mitigation techniques and explore the crucial role of software strategies in safeguarding ASICs against the unpredictable nature of space.


*The opening image of the James Webb Space Telescope is credited to NASA/Desiree Stover.


ensilica open sign

London Stock Exchange welcomes EnSilica plc to AIM

EnSilica is a designer and supplier of mixed signal ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). ASICs are Integrated Circuits or semiconductor chips developed for a particular use or product rather than for general purpose usage.  ASICs help differentiate products through optimised hardware making products smaller, faster, lower power, improved security, add novel functionality, improving supply chain security and protecting product from being copied.


The Company has expertise in the area of designing complex mixed signal ASICs. Mixed signal ASICs combine digital and analogue functions onto a single chip. They are the most complex chips to design hence the highest value.

The Company was established in 2001 as a specialist consultancy designing ICs on a contract basis. Using over 15 years’ first-hand industry experience, the Company was able to begin transitioning to a fabless design and supply business model in 2016. EnSilica now provides an end-to-end service for the design and supply of ASICs, outsourcing certain elements such as the wafer fabrication of the manufacturing and packaging to third parties – otherwise known as a Fabless Semiconductor Model. This is a proven model for growth and profitability used by many European companies including Dialog Semiconductor, Cambridge Silicon Radio, Wolfson and Nordic Semiconductor.

EnSilica’s customers currently range from global corporations and OEMs to technology start-ups, including automotive Tier 1s, industrial enterprises, as well as large software companies and service providers developing proprietary hardware.  EnSilica is an approved supplier to some of the world’s largest automotive and industrial OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers.

Transaction Details

EnSilica, a leading designer and supplier of mixed signal ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuit), is pleased to announce its admission to trading on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. Dealings on AIM are expected to commence at 8.00 a.m. on 24 May 2022, under the ticker ENSI and ISIN GB00BN7F1618.

In connection with Admission, EnSilica has raised £6 million through a placing and subscription of 12,000,000 Ordinary Shares at a price of 50p per share and will have a market capitalisation of approximately £37.6 million at the Placing Price.

The Directors believe that the Group has reached a stage in its development where it will benefit from a quotation on AIM and that, as well as providing the Company with the net proceeds of the Fundraising, this will:

  • enhance both transparency and international profile of EnSilica with existing and potential customers;
  • allow the Company to access equity capital creating flexibility to fund growth and support potential M&A opportunities;
  • enable EnSilica to attract, recruit and retain key employees who may be further incentivised through share option schemes ; and
  • create a platform for existing shareholders to participate in the future growth of the Company

Ian Lankshear, Chief Executive Officer of EnSilica commented:

“We are delighted to be floating EnSilica on AIM and believe this represents a major endorsement of our business.  Our quoted status will provide an ideal platform from which to accelerate a number of growth initiatives which will ultimately further expand both market reach and customer footprint.

Having developed a reputation of excellence and innovation over the past 21 years, we firmly believe our mixed signal and RF design and supply capabilities are ideally placed to further capitalise on the significant demand for ASICs across our key markets.

We are excited by the numerous opportunities that being a quoted company will bring and we look forward to further developing EnSilica over the coming years.”

London Stock Exchange Logo

EnSilica to list on London Stock Exchange’s AIM market, expected to begin trading from 24th May

OXFORD, United Kingdom –May 19, 2022EnSilica, the UK-headquartered specialist designer and supplier of mixed signal ASICs has announced it is set to be listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market. Trading is expected to begin from the 24th May under the ticker ENSI.

AIM is the LSE’s market for small and medium sized growth companies, with over 1,200 companies listed on it.

In connection with the Admission, EnSilica has raised £6 million (USD 7.4m) through a placing and subscription of 12,000,000 Ordinary Shares at a price of 50p per share and will open with a market capitalisation of £37.6 million (USD 46.6m).

The company designs ASICs for system developers working across the automotive, satellite and healthcare sectors. Its CEO, Ian Lankshear said “Our quoted status will provide an ideal platform from which to accelerate a number of growth initiatives, which will ultimately further expand both market reach and customer footprint.

“Having developed a reputation of excellence and innovation over the past 21 years, we firmly believe our mixed signal and RF design and supply capabilities are ideally placed to further capitalise on the significant demand for ASICs across our key markets.”